New group emerges to oppose Amendment 4 solar measure on this month’s ballot

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A constitutional amendment on this month’s primary ballot, which would give commercial property owners a tax break when they install renewable energy devices, has not faced any opposition to date. Until now.

Conservative activist Jason Hoyt announced the creation of “Stop Playing Favorites Political Action Committee “(Stop Playing Favorites PAC) on Monday, which he brands as an effort meant to discourage Florida lawmakers and voters from creating carve-outs while picking winners and losers in the economy. Their immediate goal is focused on asking Florida voters to reject Amendment 4 on the Aug. 30 Florida primary.

“Voters are tired of big government cronyism where legislators and lobbyists play favorites by manipulating the tax code for their friends,” says Hoyt. “Stop Playing Favorites was created to defeat measures just like Amendment 4, which will shortchange taxpayers while lining the pockets of big solar, big utility corporations and big business.  No matter the industry or issue, when the Legislature makes exemptions, someone has to pay for it.”

Amendment 4 was put on the ballot by state legislators earlier this year. Its primary sponsors are St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes, Fort Myers Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues and Lantana Democratic Rep. Lori Berman.

And unlike the other solar power constitutional amendment that Florida will voters will decide on this fall (Amendment 1), there is little controversy about Amendment 4, which is backed by both business and progressive groups, such as the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, The Nature Conservancy and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Amendment 4 advocates say it would reduce the price of home solar panels, thus allowing more Floridians to use them. It would also help out the big utility companies by reducing their tax liability on solar panels and other renewable energy equipment. If approved by voters, the Legislature would need to approve those tax breaks next year, and they would last for at least 20 years.

Stop Playing Favorites members say the ballot proposal is a rejection of free market principles.

“If government investment was the ingredient for success, then Solyndra would be a Fortune 500 company,” says Tampa conservative activist Tom Gaitens, former Florida director of FreedomWorks.

“Whenever the government does what free markets were intended to do in a capitalistic society, there goes the death of freedom and private enterprise,” says Cindy Cooper Youell, a candidate for Seminole County state committeewoman, who supports the effort. “The people then become subservient to the government who has now become master of its slave to ever-increasing taxation. In the end, work is frustrated and that society collapses, as incentive to work has lost its reward.”

 

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected]


9 comments

  • Glen Gibellina

    August 2, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    You have your dates mixed up
    it’s YES on 4 and NO in NOvember

  • David Sillman

    August 3, 2016 at 9:34 am

    OMG how could anyone oppose Amendment 4?!? Conservatives are supposed to HATE burdensome taxes on ‘the job creators’ and love tax cuts?? Apparently only when it serves their special interests. Seriously, the solar industry is BOOMING in the US and around the world, EXCEPT in states that do not have solar-friendly policy in place. Fun fact: there were more than 140,000 advanced energy jobs in Florida last year — nearly double the number of jobs in agriculture and on par with colleges and schools. Another 5000 jobs are expected to be added in 2016. It is utterly IGNORANT to try and obstruct solar in FL where, instead of being the laggard that we are, we should be leading the world!!

    • Don P

      August 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      David,
      Did you read the entire article or did you only read the title before starting into your diatribe? Had you read the article, it would have answered your question for you. I’ll type slow, try to keep up. Conservatives DO hate burdensome taxes on the job creators, but they also hate the government trying to pick winners and losers. If YOU are so much in favor of tax breaks for commercial energy production investments, then why not be in favor of giving tax breaks to ALL energy production investments instead of, apparently, just when it seems to serve YOUR special interests? Considering your statements about how many jobs have already been added and how many more are expected to be added, the solar industry doesn’t seem to be too obstructed in Florida. Not giving the solar industry special dispensation is not creating an obstruction, it’s just being fair. Anyone who thinks it is obstructionism is just ignorant.

  • Shawn

    August 4, 2016 at 11:29 am

    David – You obviously don’t understand conservatism. We are for free markets and we don’t like tax payer subsidies chosen by politicians. Solar is not booming, all these numbers you are spouting are because of tax payer dollars not a free economy. Solar can’t make it in the free market or everybody would have a solar home. Economics 101. Bigger government equals less freedom. I choose freedom. Go live in Venezuela if you like the government to manage the economy.

  • Roslyn

    August 4, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    I read the bill and don’t see anywhere it states it’s for commercial businesses only. I thought it would apply to all of us who purchased solar commercial and personal properties. Can anyone help me understand if I’m truly mistaken here because I want solar without having to still pay FPL for being “on the grid”.

    • Patrick

      August 5, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      Currently there is a residential property tax abatement where solar property is exempted from taxation. This amendment will REINSTATE the tax exemption for commercial property as well. Vote yes on 4!

      P.S. The utilities are in favor of this amendment as well because thier projects will be exempt from taxation. This bill applies to hospitals, restarunts, mom and pop stores, utility scale projects and more. When it applies to everyone, how is that picking winners and loosers and how would that be considered a subsidy? This amendment is a winner.

      • Don P

        August 7, 2016 at 7:26 pm

        “The utilities are in favor of this amendment as well because their projects will be exempt from taxation.”
        Well duh!

        Patrick,
        You really don’t understand how it is picking winners and losers? (and it’s losers, not loosers) How would you like it if you had a business building something or supplying a service and the government was giving a tax incentive to anyone who bought from your competitor? Would you be in favor of it then? That’s what this is. How about giving an exemption to ANY type of power generation expansion?

        The government should leave all businesses with a level playing field. That’s the American way. If the government financially favors one over the other it isn’t being fair. Let the market decide. Besides, the government has a lousy history of trying to pick winners and losers, just google Solyndra. If you want to have the government choose things for you, move to some socialist country… like Venezuela or Cuba. Yes, we know that the utilities are in favor of this. That is to be expected. Typically any person/group/organization will be in favor of anything that will favor them financially… unless it is illegal (well, I guess the illegal part depends on the person). I will, however, bet you that those utilities who are in favor of it are planning on some type of solar expansion in the future so that it benefits them. They know that it’s just a matter of time before the government regulates most of their current power generating methods out of existence… another example of the government picking winners and losers.

    • Don P

      August 7, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      Roslyn,
      As Patrick stated, residential is already exempt from those taxes. As for your wanting to be “off the grid”, it might depend on where you live. I remember hearing about an instance somewhere in Florida where you are required to be grid tied. Better check with your local government.

  • Joanne

    August 9, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Last year we had a solar company give us a pitch. The cost of the crazy thing was $27,000. The $9,000 rebate check was to be signed over to them. We would have been stuck with a $17,000 bill which would have required a mortgage; and, of course, there’s the interest. And, what if we wanted to sell our house before it was paid off? In addition, we would have still been plugged into the grid. If we wanted to be on our own, we would have had to buy the batteries at an additional cost. Then, there’s the trees. We would have had to cut many trees down (including some on our neighbor’s property) to get the sunlight needed – So much for “save the trees.”
    Then you better hope it doesn’t hail or tree branches fall on it during a storm. We have acorns that hit the roof at certain times of the year.
    The power company is going to get theirs someway. Even though you might get a “savings” in power – while you are paying your interest bearing loan – your neighbor’s electric bill just went up.
    I’m voting No thanks.
    Here’s putting it on a business level. While a business may be going solar and enjoying tax exemption, you the consumer will pay more because these panels are not cheap and have upkeep due to damage.
    I agree with the statement made ‘When the Legislature makes exemptions, someone has to pay for it.’

Comments are closed.


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